By Struan Stevenson
Promises to re-examine the Iran deal or scrap it altogether, seem high on President-elect Donald Trump’s policy agenda and that is not surprising considering he called the deal “the worst ever” and a “disaster,” during his election campaign. These are not only serious issues for Americans, but for Europeans too, because the new US administration is in a unique position to go back to the drawing board and to craft a new Iran policy.
From the minute the nuclear deal was signed, the Obama administration wasted no time in claiming that it ensured Iran would never obtain a nuclear weapon. This claim has since been tested and found wanting, despite strenuous attempts by the US administration to influence the media. Indeed it has been proved that at the very most, the Iranian regime’s efforts to produce a nuclear weapon have only been delayed by a few years. The deal has been further undermined by continuing Iranian ballistic missile tests in open defiance of the terms of the agreement. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani was an architect of Iran’s nuclear program and previously bragged openly on Iranian television about how he mislead negotiators.
The so-called “moderate” Rouhani and the fact that the nuclear agreement took place under his watch, was supposed to symbolize a liberalizing change, but that is simply not true. Iranians are being executed in such high numbers that Iran now leads the world in per capita executions. The regime continues to imprison and torture activists and suspected dissidents who are lucky enough to escape hanging from a crane. And the same power structure in which religious authority remain in oppressive control is still very much intact. The Iran that deceived the west over and over again is the same Iran we are dealing with today.
Is there another option? Supporters of the nuclear deal insist that it was the only option and that it’s divorced from all other Iranian behavior. They are wrong on both counts. Iran was desperate for a deal because it could no longer bear the sanctions and was in fear of a domestic revolt. The international community, under US leadership, lost a great opportunity to force Iran to destroy completely its nuclear weapons program. Yet it is never too late. There are many ways to close the loopholes of the deal, but it requires political will and the correct policy.
It should be made clear to Tehran that there will be zero tolerance for any breaches of the agreement. This must include ballistic missile tests, the spread of terror throughout the region and its appalling human rights record. All of these are terrible consequences of the deal that were actually financed in part through American ransom payments for western hostages taken by the regime.
The only long-term solution to ensure that the theocratic regime doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon and to aid the re-integration of Iran into the international community is by empowering the Iranian people themselves. What makes democracy great is the fact that it holds the people’s right to make their own decisions sacrosanct – Iranians too deserve this opportunity.
Unlike other countries that have fallen into disarray following foreign intervention, Iran does not need foreign intervention to resolve its problems. It has an organized opposition that embraces democracy, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) at its core.
The Iranian resistance’s network inside Iran is significant. It has struggled for democracy and human rights for fifty years. Over 120.000 of its members and supporters have been executed by the Tehran Regime. Its underground network has gathered and revealed crucial information about Tehran’s secret nuclear programs and terrorist networks. Outside Iran, supporters of this movement, ex-pat Iranians who fled their homeland because of the brutality and oppression they faced, are spread across several hundred cities throughout the world.
Several thousand parliamentarians including a wide range of Euro MPs and Members of the US Congress and Senate have expressed their support for the democratic and tolerant views of the Iranian resistance and its campaigns against Islamic fundamentalism. This has made the movement an existential threat to the medievalist mullahs.
If the US and Europe really want a deal with a trustworthy partner, they will have much better chance to find them in the Iranian resistance than within the current fundamentalist regime in Tehran. That is the challenge now facing the new Trump administration.
Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup from 2005-2014.